Not only is it smart to buy in-season whole foods as a money-saving strategy, but by focusing on produce that’s currently being harvested, you’ll enjoy them when their flavors are bolder and more succulent than compared to any other time of year. The following superfoods may not exactly be “buzzworthy,” but they are in season for summer (according to the USDA) and offer plenty of essential nutrients at a totally affordable cost.
From salads to smoothies, cucumbers are a perfect addition to a variety of different summer dishes and they offer a host of nutritional benefits, too. Research shows that the unique nutrients in cucumbers may play a role in reducing your risk for heart disease as well as several types of cancers. Additionally, animal research has consistently shown that extracts from cucumbers may provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits as well.
Average Cost per Pound: $1.30
An excellent source of vitamins C and A, the sweet and juicy cantaloupe is an ideal summertime snack. Plus, its nutritional profile has been shown to offer a wide variety of health benefits. One recent study found that an increased intake of fruits like apples, grapes, cantaloupe, watermelon and bananas may reduce a person’s risk for developing metabolic syndrome. Additionally the cantaloupe is a good source of other important nutrients like potassium, folate and vitamins B6, B3 and B1.
Average Cost per Pound: $0.54
While studies have shown that canned green beans (aka string beans) tend to lose some of their nutrients during the canning process, as the most affordable way to by this veggie, it's still a great option. Fresh green beans are the best choice, but when frozen they retain much of their nutrients, so it’s certainly worth it to snag them from the freezer section if that's what works best for your budget. Not only are these long, skinny pods packed with vitamin K, manganese, fiber and vitamin C, but recent research has also helped to highlight their impressive antioxidant profile. Plus, they’re a good source of the mineral silicon, which helps to support the health of your bones and connective tissues.
Average Cost per Pound: $0.83 canned, $1.67 frozen, $2.14 fresh
An invigorating addition to your summer fruit salads, one serving of kiwifruit packs about 85 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C and research has shown that the phytonutrients found in this tropical fruit may play a role in protecting human cell DNA by providing antioxidants and healing properties.
Average Cost per Pound: $2.04
Filled with fiber, folate, magnesium, potassium, iron, B vitamins and not to mention, protein, lima beans are an all-encompassing superfood that certainly shouldn’t be overlooked, and especially not during the summer while they’re in season. Thanks to a high fiber content combined with the presence of nutrients like folate and magnesium, lima beans can likely play a role in supporting your cardiovascular health. One study that examined more than 16,000 middle-aged men from around the world found that those who consumed more legumes like lima beans had an 82 percent reduction in their risk for heart disease.
Average Cost per Pound: canned $1.38, dried $1.73, frozen $1.84
Another juicy, sweet fruit that can be served and prepared many different ways, mangos are known for being a very good source of vitamins A and C as well as a good source of fiber and vitamin B6. Plus, at just 100 calories for a one cup serving, this quintessential summertime fruit makes for a refreshing sweet treat on a hot, sunny day.
Average Cost per Pound: $1.38
It may not be as popular as kale or quinoa, but this unfamiliar-sounding superfood offers a wide variety of important nutrients and minerals. A green, pepper-like stalk, Okra is known for being a very good source of fiber, vitamins A, C, K, and B6, folate, calcium, and magnesium. Plus, according to Time reporter Alexandra Sifferlin, Okra seeds are rich in antioxidants and some nutrients in the plant may be able to help protect against diabetes, high cholesterol levels and even brain function.
Research on the health benefits of plums has focused on two unique phytonutrients: neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acid. Found in plums and prunes, they function as antioxidants and have been shown to prevent oxidative damage. Additionally, plums are considered a very good source of vitamin C and some studies have shown that they may play a role in helping the body to better absorb iron.
Average Cost per Pound: juice $1.16, fresh $1.83
Easy to prepare and bursting with flavor, summer squash can quickly turn almost any warm-weather dish into a colorful and nutritious meal. Although each variety has its own unique color, shape and flavor, most summer squash share similar characteristics in that they contain powerful antioxidants, to help support a healthy immune system and are a good source of beta-carotene, which provides anti-inflammatory benefits.
Average Cost per Pound: $1.64
What food is more exemplary of summer than a ripe, red watermelon? And at about 33 cents per pound, there aren’t many fruits that come at a more affordable price either. In addition to keeping you hydrated on hot summer days, watermelons are often touted for their high concentration of lycopene, a phytonutrient that has been shown to help support cardiovascular health thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Average Cost per Pound: $.33